Friday, April 15, 2011

Translations, Visas and Budgets...oh my!

This has been a really productive week. I sent the finished curriculum to Madurai and they seem excited about the content! A couple teams are reviewing the info and going to send thoughts as they start translating it to Tamil!

Chris' visa also came this week! It's official, that boy loves me :) I mean how many girls are lucky enough to have a husband that would fly around the world to support them!?! And agree to a 10 year visa, which I'm hoping means he's open to visiting India more than once. We'll see after he's actually been there outside of my dreaming and scheming. No matter what this trip means the world to me--you're the best babe!

As with most mission trips the last detail to be covered is the budget. I am proud to say we have an official budget with real numbers and line items. Unfortunately we only have a fraction covered. But I'm optimistic!

We started planning a fundraiser yesterday to help cover costs. We start collecting change on May 1. If anyone is interested in helping out here are the instructions, click on the image to make it larger:

All funds will support our health program this summer. Breath of Life is a program development workbook meant to equip people with low-cost solutions that anyone can learn. Here are pictures of some of the things we teach.

Solar Water Purification: all that's needed are recycled bottles, corrugated metal and sunshine

Tippy Tap: No running water? No problem. You can use recycled bottles to make hand washing stations!

Feel free to email me with any questions I'd be happy to show you the curriculum and talk about our process with anyone interested!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Breath of Life

After months of work our Breath of Life workbook is finally complete! I made the final edits this morning and sent it to our partners in India to review and translate.

The workbook encourages interaction with the health workers, journaling, demonstrations, activities and field trips. The lesson plans cover topics of nutrition, kitchen gardens, bonding, spiritual and emotional care for mothers, hygiene, water sanitation and more. Each section has 1-3 scriptures related to the topic to help us bridge the cultural gap and work from a shared foundation.

Recently they sent us our itinerary for a two week course in July. We will teach Breath of Life to nursing students in the morning, health workers in the afternoon and do rounds at a prenatal clinic in the evenings! This will take place in two different areas 30 kilometers outside of Madurai and these health workers cover an area of 18 villages. And that's just two weeks!!

God is opening so many doors. His grace and provision is overwhelming at times. Who are we to be blessed with such amazing opportunities? Whatever His logic is for trusting us--I'm honored.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:16-17

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Home is Where the Heart Is

Since my first trip to India Madurai has held a special place in my heart. Or rather, held my heart captive. I think about it everyday. Memories flood my thoughts of samosas with Rosy & Nehi at the illy coffee shop, drives to remote villages in the Jeep with Paul Raj, picking up Richard's girls from school, dinner with Paulus' family at the farm, the rich colors and not so rich smells. I can't wait to return! I feel so comfortable in Madurai. Not to sound cliche but theres this peace--a sense of being complete--when I'm there.

In the states I constantly struggle with anxiety, doubt, depression, mood swings, the whole gamut. Sometimes I worry that I keep going back to India in order to "run away from my problems." But if that were the case I think the effects would have worn off by now.

There are few things I've stuck with in my short life. I begged to take piano lessons and lasted for a couple years but never practiced, violin lessons lasted half a semester in the fourth grade, swim team one season, cross-country ended during tryouts, as well as cheerleading, french classes (je n'ai sais pas), I attended four colleges obtaining only one degree, etc, etc.

During junior year of high school dad was returning to India and I begged him to take me along. Over the years my parents became smarter and rented uniforms instead of investing too much in my whims but this time didn't take much convincing. I think he knew this experience was worth the support--thanks dad :)

My intentions were similar to the optimistic start of any new venture but this experience made a lasting impression. Looking back I realize that God was giving me a glimpse into the reality of the world and the beauty of a life that followed Him.

Everyone I met working for the Samuel's was so devoted, so giving, so humble. There was one special afternoon at the HIV clinic that I will always remember. Paulus told me to put my camera away before we went inside. I was nervous because the camera had become my safety net (you don't have to interact with your environment hidden safely behind a lens). Walking through and meeting the nurses and patients I became really uncomfortable. Not because of the frailty of the patients but because of the warmth in their eyes. These people were happy, filled with joy. Laying on there death beds, in a one room clinic, on old cots. I was really confused.

We continued to the back of the clinic and sat down with Paulus & Daniel in the office, where I snapped the photo seen with permission. Here we gave them the 8,000 Rs ($200) we raised to send the staff on a weekend vacation. Expecting big eyes and dropped jaws we were surprised by their response. "Thank you but we don't need a vacation. Can we give this to the children?" After an awkward silence, the sound of your ego being graciously deflated, dad started to talk openly with Paulus & Daniel. He asked me to take notes of the conversation so we remembered what was discussed. I opened the journal Paulus took me to get a week early that had yet to be written in. Dad asked what they needed from us. Their ministries were impeccable, organized and run well by locals. How could we truly serve them instead of our ego? Over chai and biscuits I scribbled some notes that set the course for our "mission."

This conversation changed my life. I started to realize life wasn't worth living for myself. The novelty of the violin wore off once I realized I wasn't going to be in Mr Holland's Opus but the excitement of living for a greater purpose to partner with those in need has kept me going.

It's not always easy. I don't want to encourage the idealize concept of humanitarian work in an exotic land (to others or myself). But it is so rewarding. Especially when I remember the work has nothing to do with me. Pressure's off. No anxiety about messing up or making the wrong decision and sending history spiraling off course. Just the beauty of being one small piece of the puzzle and living a life outside myself.

I hope that everyone can discover their own Madurai and have conversations that direct their path.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rule #1 in traveling to India: Be Flexible

Over the years I've learned that you can't really "plan" a trip to India. You just have to be patient, communicate as the internet connections and time difference will allow and take a lot of deep breaths.

Coming from my American background, I want everything to be scheduled and confirmed as soon as the idea pops in my head. I know this isn't feasible.  I obsess over everyone's Visas, increasing airfare, lack of funds, logistics, etc. Even if this was all taken care of and arranged, by the time people decide not to go last minute, our flights are delayed, the train breaks down, someone gets sick upon arrival, or we're booked in two villages at the same time...plans change.

While I'm struggling not having all the details nailed down I am appreciative of our Indian partners, the Samuel Family, more and more every day! They answer my frantic emails with encouragement and patience and gently guide me to see the beauty in allowing God the time to work things out. Their outpouring of love is at time too much to handle. I mean their the one's struggling with 'real' problems and we're coming to help them this summer...right?

I had a 'lightbulb' moment this week talking with Chris about my struggles and disappointments of being rejected by yet another grant, having to edit my IRB application again, etc. I used to think my struggles were taking things too personal. In the spirit of preventing problems before they start--thank you public health--I'm trying to shift my focus. Maybe my true struggle is placing expectations on myself and my efforts and when they don't work out I feel like I did something wrong, sending my thoughts spiraling into "I can't do anything right." "what does it all mean?" "where do I fit in the world?" Extreme, I know.

Sure we have responsibilities and a role to play but in the end "everything under heaven belongs to God" (Job 41:11). So why should I worry about where the funds will come from or what everyday will look like in Maduari? "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?...Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."(Matthew 6:25),

While it's easy to read I hope that I can truly trust and live by God's expectations for this summer and cut myself (and everyone else) some slack.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and stead fast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 5:6-11).